March 11, 2015 – Marysville city officials hope that an outside management company can help make Cedarcrest Golf Course better at generating revenue and value for golfers.
Premier Golf Centers LLC, which runs municipal golf courses across Puget Sound, including in Everett, Bellevue and Seattle, took over the operations for Marysville’s course on March 1.
The city has owned Cedarcrest Golf Course since 1972, but has seen revenue and golf rounds decline in recent years, said Jim Ballew, the city’s parks and recreation director. That trend is true across the nation though, he said.
“The golf course industry is changing. Across the nation golf is in decline,” he said.
The course has not turned a profit the last few years, said Ballew, and has been subsidized from the city’s general fund money.
“We consider [Cedarcrest Golf Course] a park, and all our parks are subsidized to some degree, but it’s also an enterprise and we feel we can reclaim some of those funds with this management,” said Ballew.
Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said that the course’s PGA professional left last year, causing city officials to look at options for the course. Eventually, the Premier Golf Centers management team was chosen to take over, he said.
Running municipal courses through management companies has become increasingly common for city governments, said Nehring.
“Every other public course in the region has gone to a management company,” he said.
Nehring said in his talks with other cities he found that Premier Golf Centers had helped their courses.
Premier Golf Centers specializes in municipal golf courses, said president of the company Bill Schickler.
The size of the company gives them many advantages, he said.
“We manage so many golf courses that we have constant contact with thousands of golfers in the region,” he said.
The Loyalty Premier Golf Club has thousands of members and their mobile app has had 30,000 downloads, according to Schickler.
Because they have a larger consolidation of resources they can leverage their purchasing power better than the city alone could, said Nehring.
The company also runs a call center with more staffing, said Ballew.
“We used to run a single-person operation and whenever that one person didn’t answer the phone, that was revenue we were losing,” he said.
Their call centers can also recommend other golf courses run by Premier Golf Centers, so if a golfer can’t get the tee time they want at Memorial Legion Park in Everett the center might recommend Cedarcrest Golf Course, or vice versa, said Ballew.
“The bottom line is that this is cheaper and more efficient … we want to offer more service at better values,” said Ballew.
Manager Mike Reynolds, who ran the course under the city, said that prices look like they will remain the same as before.
Ballew said that all employees who worked for the city at Cedarcrest Golf Course were offered new positions. Reynolds said that many will be transferring to other courses.
Schickler said Premier Golf Centers will also take over the maintenance of the course starting in May.
They hope to increase the dryness of the course. “Cedarcrest has been known as a wet course and we hope to make it more playable,” he said.
Reynolds said there is some work that could improve the course.
“Most northwest courses are pretty wet, but if they can bring in the right crew there is a lot of drainage work that can be done,” he said.
Reynolds said Premier Golf Centers is looking to bring in new golf carts as well.
“The city leased new ones every year, which meant they had about 20 good carts and the rest which needed to be updated,” he said.
Schickler hopes they will bring a PGA professional back to the course soon, and that they will help improve the club organizations there.
“Clubs in general are struggling, but we try to work closely with them to put out more events and more tournaments that are fun,” he said.
Premier Golf Centers signed a five-year contract to take over the course, but Nehring said there is an easy opt-out option for the city if city officials change their mind.
He said the course will continue to exist.
“We’re committed to having a golf course in Marysville.”